Q: I already have many elements of my course in electronic formats, but how do I turn them into an online course? Answer
Q: What's the best mix of face-to-face and online for enhanced and hybrid courses? Answer
Q: How long does it take to develop an online course? Answer
Q: How much time does it take to teach an online course, compared to a face-to-face course? Answer
Q: What's the best format for sharing video or audio content online? Answer
Q: What major challenges should I be aware of when teaching online? Answer
Q: What happens if technology glitches crop up after I launch my online course? Answer
Have a question not addressed here? Request a consultation by completing a Digital Union Intake Form.
Q: I already have many elements of my course in electronic formats, but how do I turn them into an online course?
A: Although preparing materials is a good start, it takes more than content delivered online to make an effective online course. To put it bluntly, an effective online course requires the presence of the instructor, not just the instructor’s materials. Think about ways to add interaction between students and instructor in both learning activities and assignments. See Planning Your Course for ideas.
Q: What's the best mix of face-to-face and online for enhanced and hybrid courses?
A: That depends entirely on the course being taught. In some disciplines, assigning online resources makes face-to-face classroom time more productive. For example, see Ruth Kinder's hybrid chemistry course.
In other cases, it's difficult or expensive to incorporate enough online content or interactivity to warrant decreasing face-to-face time. For example, a course in public speaking might not be as easily run online because an integral part of the curriculum is communicating with a live audience. However, even a public speaking course may benefit from online posting of lecture notes, syllabus, and assignments or the use of online discussions.
Q: How long does it take to develop an online course?
A: It depends on the course. The more interactivity – in the form of self-tests, simulations, animations, media and conditional release of course elements – the longer the prep time. One standard estimate is 20 hours of preparation per one hour of largely print-based, self-paced instruction.
Some very effective online courses center on text-based readings and lesson notes that are supplemented by active online discussions, all of which require less production time than media-intensive course formats.
See the Example Gallery for examples of online course formats.
Q: How much time does it take to teach an online course, compared to a face-to-face course?
A: All the faculty members interviewed for this project agreed that it takes more time than they expected to teach online. It is something of a myth that teaching online requires less instructor time than face-to-face teaching. In most cases, online courses require as much instructor interaction and guidance as face-to-face courses. As David Stein (Associate Professor, Workforce Development and Education) says, in an online setting "every student expects personal attention."
That being said, there are best practices for course and time management that can help make the best use of time – yours and your students'.
Q: What's the best format for sharing video or audio content online?
A: A wide variety of formats are available for video and audio, each with their own pluses and minuses. (See Streaming Media Comparisons for some example footage.) As a general rule, be consistent within your course and prepare your students for any required technology requirements.
Here are some additional suggestions:
- Let students know which browsers and media players are required and how to download them.
- Have your students test their systems prior to their required use.
- Provide information about how to contact campus technical support if they do have difficulties.
- When reusing materials from past courses, always test your materials from the student perspective to ensure they perform as expected.
Q: What major challenges should I be aware of when teaching online?
A: Technology glitches are a frustrating but inevitable aspect of teaching online. Your best defenses against them are to:
- Test your assignments and resources before releasing them to students.
- Clearly specify course technology requirements.
- Create an incentive early in the course so that students test all the technologies they will need.
- Think twice before introducing customizations to supported eLearning applications (like Carmen). Customizations may add desired functionality, but typically at a large maintenance cost.
Time management can also be troublesome for students, who may mistakenly believe that an online class is easier than a traditional one. At the beginning of the course, direct your students to one of the many “Are you ready for online learning?” sites available on the web.
Instructors new to teaching online may also find themselves spending more time on the course than they wish, frequently on communication. Students expect rapid turn around in messages, whether through emails or discussion postings, and may show scant regard for the standard work week. However, you can manage their expectations. Provide a general estimated response time for your own communications (e.g., "within 48 hours"). Let students know your course schedule. Will you be online during weekend hours? Communicate proactively, for example, when your schedule changes or before high-stakes events like quizzes or tests.
Finally, students may behave inappropriately on the web. Place your expectations for “Netiquette” in your syllabus. Reduce anonymity in your course by using pseudonyms judiciously if at all, having course members introduce themselves, and creating opportunities for students to work together in small groups.
Q: What happens if technology glitches crop up after I launch my online course?
A: Technology changes rapidly. Operating systems, web browsers, and even file formats change and can sometimes cause courses to stop working.
When reusing materials from past courses, always test your materials from the student perspective to ensure they perform as expected. Also, try to be flexible in your own expectations of how technologies work together. For instance, because web browsers and operating systems function differently from one another, you may not be able to embed multimedia files of various types and have them work consistently for all possible computer setups.
Even if your course works perfectly at the start of the term, be prepared
for problems caused by new technology releases and temporary outages.
For each element of your course (materials, assignments, feedback, etc.),
plan ahead what you will do if your preferred technology fails. Things
to consider include:
- Using an alternative method to send material or
- Extending deadlines for assignments.
an online assignment with a lower-tech equivalent.
- Waiving a requirement
for all students.
- Requiring students to meet face-to-face (may not
be an option for some courses).